Friday, June 15, 2007

Riding the Uinta Mountains - Day 1

Last weekend the forecast for Torrey said highs in the low 90s, about as hot as it gets normally, so I decided to head north in search of cooler weather. I've been eying the Uinta Mountains for a couple of years now so that's where I headed, not wishing to rough it I decided on the KOA in Manila, about a mile from the Wyoming line and, importantly, with WiFi :grin:

The red square is where I planned on riding, Torrey is just below center of the map where the red T is, about 280 miles from Manila
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Not exactly wilderness camp...
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Day 1

This map has the rides from Friday (red), Sunday (yellow) and Monday (blue) on it, it is about 15 miles across the width of the map. The mountains are the Uintas and it is the Ashley National Forest, Vernal is just south of the map with Flaming Gorge just to the east, Manila to the north.
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The ride started at the bottom right corner, there is a little hiker there but he's a bit hard to see. My plan was to follow the Outlaw Trail which was set up as a loop for ATVs and motorcycles, I had the brochure for it and was a bit concerned that the loop was marked "more difficult" and "most difficult". This was to be my first real dirt ride of the year, the Torrey XIII ride was really rather easy so didn't count in my book. There were lots of bug-out points if things got too tough so off I went clockwise round the red loop.

A trail ride doesn't start much prettier than this, but this wasn't actually my trail...
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The trail was easy to find from the road, it set off over a hill which revealed a nice panorama from the top
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and then descended into the trees
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There were a lot of dead trees, apparently the bark beetle has been busy in the area, fire suppression over the last century has led to lots of old rotting trees that are not resistant to the beetle and it has been able to launch an attack from that base.

The first mile and half of the Outlaw Trail were marked as "more difficult" but were really not very difficult at all
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After Big Lake the trail was marked "most difficult" but again it wasn't really that hard, or so I thought. As I made my way down the bottom red spur on the map the trail got narrower and deeper in the ravine until eventually it got wet
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I didn't have to traverse the entire length of this as the ATV riders had made a side trail off to the left, one big splash and I was out of it. The next obstacle was a steep sharp turn on some loose surface, something I'm not very good at. I got into the loose rocks half way up and stopped, then had to bulldog the bike up the rest of the way
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If it hadn't been the first hour I don't think I would have had any trouble with this (usual disclaimer about it not looking as steep in the picture as it actually was, please apply to all future failures!) That effort and some more rocky trail made me quite hot so I decided to stop for lunch - having got my traditional tardy start. Only problem was, lunch was still in the truck, oh well I had plenty of water in the CamelBak. Only a quarter mile on I met some ATV riders who had hiked down to see a large cave with a massive icicle in it, I would have liked to do that too but my motocross boots really don't lend themselves to hiking, next time. The ATV riders had just had lunch and without me even mentioning it offered me a sandwich and candy bar they had left over. I'm ashamed to say that we didn't even exchange names, they were from Vernal, Utah and Bethel, Alaska which is 400 miles west of Anchorage!
We chatted for a while and they told me that I had actually missed a turn for the Outlaw Trail, the trail I should have taken went straight up the side of the hill they said. There was no obvious way on from where we were except for a quite steep slope which some ATVs had obviously used so not wanting to turn back I decided to try that, mistake number one:

I went off the side of the slope about half way up and there was no way to get started again (story of my weekend)
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I hiked a ways up the trail but it was steep and loose for a long way so I decided not to try it again and to back track and find the Outlaw Trail

It did indeed go straight up the hill
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Given my lack of success and the fact that it appeared to be like this for quite a way I decided not to try it and take the road instead. Pity because from the top of this the trail was again marked just "more difficult" but the little man in my head was quite insistent that I shouldn't try it and I've made a deal with myself that when riding alone I'll listen to him at least some of the time.

Rather than heading south at the T in the road and picking up a "most difficult" section of the trail the little man persuaded me to take the road to Oak Park Reservoir (9280 ft) and join the "more difficult" part there.

Unfortunately the start of that section was across a spillway from the reservoir, the obvious path across had a huge hole of unknown depth in it with sharp rocks on either side and it didn't take the little man long to dispose of that idea.
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I walked all over the spillway trying to find a route, but in vain, I could have built myself a rocky road in one place but in the end decided to go around the lake and forgo the trail for this time.

The spillway from below
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and looking downstream
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the reservoir itself
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Heading further east I got some views of the high peaks in the Uintas, Utah's highest mountain, King's Peak at 13,528 feet is in this range but none of these are King's. I think they are probably Marsh Peak (12,060) on the left and its apparently unnamed sisters but I'm not certain.
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This was the furthest west I got, as you can see from the map I took a number of side trails to see what was up them, something I can never resist. Turning east I rejoined the Outlaw Trail further along, just before the Jeep Trail on the map.

The trail on the west side of the Jeep Trail made it's way through some very wet woodland, so wet that logs had been laid down to make a path
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I think I may have been the first person through this section this year as I had to re-build one section of the log road and later on came to a tree across the path that it wasn't possible to get under and there were no tracks round, I was able to easily go round it just to one side but nobody else had as far as I could tell.

I "took" several pictures of East Park Reservoir (9019 ft) which was quite scenic but was to discover later that my camera is acting up, on dirt rides I carry my Canon S70 Powershot which has been a great little camera but I think it may have been involved in a few too many "incidents" on the dirt bike (it got knocked into the Fremont River the first day I used it!). It seems to have developed a tendency to not extend the lens and then, though it feels as though it has taken a picture, it actually hasn't. I almost always use the viewfinder not the LCD and rarely check pictures as the LCD is hard to see in the sun so I didn't realize until later that I was missing shots. Of course once I knew I made sure so there are plenty of shots from the remainder of the weekend.

From the reservoir I decided against taking the "most difficult" section of the trail directly east from the top of the reservoir, it was getting late, I was tired and the ATV riders had warned me it was very tough. So I headed down the main road towards the truck, this road soon turned into a wide paved road - better than any road here at home in Wayne County! This of course was not a good thing so I had to dive off down a canyon which had a trail marked that came out right by the truck, it was really gorgeous, I wish I had pictures!

A great day on the CRF, 52 miles in about 6 hours, on the way back to Kamp I got to see several crummy views like this (Sheep Creek entering Flaming Gorge)
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